Although he’s known for at least ten years, he cannot express in words a part of his identity, to the ones he loves the most. His Mother and Father are Guatemalan immigrants who raised their family in the city of Lawndale in Los Angeles, California. Their neighborhood was not affluent, but growing up Byron Barahona never knew that, because his parents did everything they could for him and his brothers. They never knew it was a struggle to have food on the table or to put aside money so that they could have Christmas and Birthday presents. Byron felt loved and comfortable to be himself as a child. He recalls playing games like house and going out to play with family friends. However, around the age of ten, that fluid childhood began to dissipate into a more structured and expecting world.
Growing up in a Hispanic household, is difficult and challenging for anyone who identifies as or is thinking about identifying as gay. Although the same is true for many cultures, Hispanic culture place a big emphasis on gender roles and still has strong resonance of machismo. Machismo is the belief that men should display manliness and dominance at all times. Byron grew up in the United States, but these stigmas still prevailed in his home. Oddly enough researchers and blogs such as Latino Opinion have found that Hispanic women are strong encouragers and enforcers of machismo. Byron’s mother a devoted Catholic who he loves dearly, began to emphasize, and enforce gender norms. He recalls getting out of his mom black honda civic and stepping out into the Chuck E Cheese parking lot excited and happy to be able to spend time with family friends. He saw the boys Kevin and Juan, who he frequently encountered, so much that his family referred to them as cousins, in the parking lot. Excited, young Byron greeted Juan with a lengthy hug and then they proceeded to enter the game arcade. The excitement of entering a game arcade, seeing all the different prizes, the smell of pepperoni pizza, and rivaling with friends, novelty wore off fast. Sara Barahona, Byron’s mom, was not content with the behavior of her sons, in particular with Byron’s behavior. Byron distinctly remembers the moment his mother who was already upset about something, yelled at him “Los Ninos no se abrasan”, which translate to “boys do not hug”. Shocked, confused and disappointed with the turnout of the day Byron began to feel the Hispanic pressures to display manliness and to avoid appearing feminine.
Understanding and exploring his sexuality was confusing, especially when trying to conform to the ideals of masculinity. During high school Byron began to wonder about his sexuality and intuitions about himself being gay. It was not black and white for Byron. He genuinely believed and developed romantic feelings for a girl in his high school, but when one of his close friend came out as gay the question just became more prominent. Following his intuitions, he asked his friend “How do you know if you’re gay?” and he answered by declaring that Byron was gay. Looking back now, Byron sees that this boy was wrong in telling him that he was gay, because it’s wrong to assume someone’s sexual orientation. After he heard the words, he had an epiphany which opened his eyes to the reality about his identity. It was not clear to see at first, because how could it be possible to have feelings for a girl and a boy? Wondering and pondering over his identity Byron concluded that he was Bi-sexual.
Regret fills his face as he talks about this time in his life. It is common for people who are actually gay to come out as bi-sexual first before realizing that they only like people of the same gender. Unfortunately, for this same reason people who identify as bi-sexual become stigmatized as confused and bisexuality is often seen as a phase, not a real sexuality. Knowing now that he does not feel anything romantically for women, he feels awful about adding to the stigma of bisexuality. He has never dated anyone, and I get the sense that even though he knows he is gay, he struggles to make declarations about his sexuality. Because of how he first came out there will always be a doubt and uncertainty in the back of his mind about his sexuality.
Not only doubt, but the fear of not being accepted for a minimal detail of his identity. Byron was popular and began to feel more comfortable expressing himself during high school, but that did not mean that he was exempt for bullying and name calling. After his performance in at a school rally where he swept the floor away with his good friend Melody, he found himself in euphoria. A feeling that was shattered, when he encountered two boys while walking outside of the ASB office. These two Hispanic boys were intrigued for all the wrong reasons, that he had danced in the school’s rally. Just the three of them in an empty hallway, the boys said the word that punctures people’s hearts. They called him a faggot. Trembling, hurt, alone, and in shock, Byron remained silent and waited for them to go on their way. He speaks with anger and regret about this incident, disappointed that he did not have the courage to defend himself. According to Violent Prevention Works, about thirty percent of youth suicides are committed by someone who identified as LGBT and were victims of school bullies. Byron considers himself lucky and very privileged to have had a great support system during high school, he was even elected Prom King. But still this memory haunts him, because he could have easily fallen into the dark abyss of isolation, depression that is inevitable or so many.
Today Byron Barahona can openly tell anyone that he is gay, with the exception of his parents and siblings. He visits home at least once a month, and talks to his mother and father on the phone, maintaining a strong emotional relationship to his parents, and brothers. He knows that his parent love him regardless of anything, so why is it that he is still not able to vocalize his sexuality to them? His parents in particular, his father, has supported political movement to give social equality to LGBT community. He proudly remembers his father watching the new in their living room television expressing disappointment in California for not passing Proposition 8 which would have allowed same sex partners to marry in 2008 years before the supreme court legalized gay marriage in all states. Same sex marriage was a big issue back then, but while talking to Byron he claims that it should not have been the main concern of the gay rights movement, because gay especially those of color, are still largely discriminated and especially in the transsexual community. He bitterly referred to the issue of same sex marriage as the last step for white gays to have all their rights, and stop fighting for minorities who are still being discriminated for their sexuality. Even though his father was socially aware and acknowledged societal wrongs, Byron is not comfortable sharing his sexuality with his parents. He claims that although his family is accepting of people being gay, it’s different when it happens inside of the household. Especially with respects to his mother, Byron is hesitant and unsure about how she would react, “My mom is very religious and I don’t want to disappoint her” he responds to why he feels it is not the right time to tell his parents. While he is trying to project optimism and hopefulness while talking, I can see the sorrowful look in his eyes. I can sense the sadness in his composure, tired from a long day of school and work, laying down on his grey sofa. He acknowledges that in terms of feeling oppressed he has experience more discrimination with his Hispanic identity. His attitude is ultimately defiant in the most inspiration way, because no matter how important sexual identity is, it does not fully define his character.
Living is a journey, a constant journey of redefining and building ourselves into the person we wish to be. Byron is one of many who was confused, and not truly fully able to be one-hundred percent himself growing up, but as time goes on he has become more and more comfortable with himself and with expressing gender fluidity. His room is decorative, with stars, He is fun loving and supportive role model for many students at the University of California Irvine. This year alone he has helped his residents face the struggles of shaping one’s true self, while still in the process of doing so himself. Once he is seriously dating someone Byron plans to tell his parents about his sexual identity, but until then he does not feel it is necessary. At the end of the day his sexuality is only one of his identities which is so small in the bigger picture of who Byron Barahona is. No matter his sexuality, he has a myriad of people who love him and will continue to love him regardless of his sexuality.
Bullying & Sexual Orientation | Violence Prevention Works”. Violencepreventionworks.org. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 May 2017.
Hispanic-American Families – Latino Family Roles”. Family.jrank.org. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 May 2017.
Machismo » Latino Opinion”. Latinoopinion.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 May 2017.